Search Image or Image Search? We batted the terms around for a while because they both characterize our work. In biology, the term “search image” refers to a set of visual cues predators use to identify cryptic prey. Naturalists have usurped the term to define their ability to rediscover more easily a camouflaged animal once it has been observed in the wild, enabling the mind’s eye to grasp the nuance of its nature. What a kick it is to find an animal that natural selection has crafted over the eons to not be found! The oceans just happen to be brimming with such creatures, many are life forms no one has even imagined existed. We are so lucky to be among the first generations to freely swim with the fishes and to explore a long hidden world, ripe for discovery.
Ned and I hunt for marine fishes and invertebrates to photograph for the series of marine life identifications guides Ned co-authors with Paul Humann. So, searching for underwater images is what we do. We often use search images, but in most instances, our best allies are local naturalist dive guides and good old fashioned luck. We feel strongly that we owe it to our subjects to present them in their best light. Our images are primarily portraits that, if all goes right, show an animal at a pleasing angle, in full focus and in its natural habitat with its distinguishing characteristics clearly displayed.
Digital photography is an impressive new tool for documenting marine wildlife. Even though an unknown animal can’t be given species status from a photograph, an image does establish that a new species exists and indicates where it might be found. Ned recently switched from a Canon 5D to the Nikon D800 to gain extra megapixels for cropping rather than enlargements. He shoots almost exclusively with a 50 or 60mm micro lens using both manual exposure and focus, and a single Ikelite strobe attached to an Ikelite housing. The idea is to be stripped down to the basics and ready for the unexpected. I carry a Sony A1U video camera in a Gates housing, mainly to record a species or its behavior as reference for writing our marine life columns in Alert Diver and Scuba Diving magazines. We also post two blogs: Marine Life Blog, a photo diary of recent experiences underwater, hosted by our company, New World Publications, and the BlennyWatcher Blog, where we share unusual marine life observations and related eclectic musings.
Our selection of images for Full Frame represents some of our favorite discoveries from the past - Anna and Ned DeLoach.
Editors note: Anna and Ned are going to be writing the monthly “Blennywatcher Diary” column for us here on Wetpixel. Please stay tuned for details and the first instalment early next month.